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Historic United 787 Flight Departs from Houston

November 5, 2012

© Houston Airport System
United Airlines operated its first flight commercial flight with the 787 Dreamliner in Houston, Texas on November 4, 2012.

United Airlines operated its first flight involving ticketed passengers aboard the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with a picture perfect departure occurring at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on November 4, 2012.

"Houston applauds the achievement of this milestone for United and George Bush Intercontinental Airport," said Mayor Annise Parker. "The aviation industry continues to be a major driver in the local economy and our job growth. That is why we take so much pride in each accomplishment, especially such a historic flight like this."

Hundreds of people, including the CEO and president of United Airlines Jeff Smisek, gathered together inside Terminal E to celebrate the moment.

“This is a very exciting day for United Airlines and it’s a day that we’ve been waiting for a long time,” Smisek told the crowd. “If you want to be the world’s leading airline then you need to have the world’s leading aircraft and we have that in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.”

Smisek joined passengers, members of the media and fellow United employees in enjoying the festive atmosphere created at IAH.  The scene at Gate E5 included blue and white balloons, cookies featuring a photograph of the 787 aircraft and commemorative posters.

Many of the passengers aboard flight 1116 to Chicago bought their ticket solely to enjoy the experience of taking part in the inaugural experience.

For example, Brian Vautour flew into Houston from his hometown of Seattle for the sole purpose of flying aboard the Dreamliner’s maiden flight.

“I’m pretty excited. I’ve loved aviation for a long time and so this is a big thrill for me,” said Vautour. “I was always around planes growing up in Seattle and so this is a big moment.”

With the flight, United Airlines ushers in a new era for composite-plastic aircraft. The lighter weight material is used in the construction of the aircraft, rather than the traditional aluminum material. As a result, the Dreamliner offers airlines a 20 percent reduction in fuel burn compared with wide-body models of similar size.  Passengers will also notice features such as dimmable windows and LED lighting that changes in different phases of flight.

United Airlines has received two Dreamliner aircraft from Boeing and has ordered an additional 50. The original plane landed in Houston in September and was used to assist United personnel in the training required to operate the upcoming flights.

Once the Houston – Chicago route was announced, the prospect of flying aboard the Dreamliner aircraft was enough to immediately send many aviation enthusiasts in search of a ticket.

Renee Hollits remembers visiting the airlines’ website the moment tickets became available.  “I’m a huge aviation fan but I’ve never been part of an inaugural flight,” Hollits said. “I wanted to be part of history with this flight.”

Houston is also scheduled to handle United Airlines’ first international flight featuring the Dreamliner aircraft. That flight to Lagos, Nigeria is scheduled to take place on January 7, 2013.

Click here to view pictures from the inaugural flight event.
Click here to view a video highlighting the inaugural flight event.

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